16:39 GMT26 February 2021
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    Israeli President considers Russia to be an Israeli defender amid prolonged Syrian crisis, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said on Tuesday.

    JERUSALEM (Sputnik) — Russia plays an important role in resolving conflicts in the Middle East and in ensuring Israel's security, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said on Tuesday.

    "To our north, five armies are fighting each other – none of whom are friends of Israel… Russia has taken up an important role in this region in the conflict which will have [a] significant impact on Israel’s security – now and moving forward. Beyond these more urgent issues, Israel and Russia have much to be proud of in our bilateral relations," Rivlin told RIA Novosti.

    The president's comments come ahead of his visit to Russia on Tuesday. Rivlin postponed his trip to Australia after receiving an invitation from Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Israeli president is also due to meet Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, and is set to discuss Russian-Israeli cooperation in trade, investment, humanitarian and other areas of common interest, according to the Russian government.

    Rivlin added that none of Syria's conflicting sides can be considered friendly to Israel. He also stressed the danger posed to Israel by the Islamic State (IS) extremist group, which is outlawed in many countries, including Russia.

    "The spread of the Islamic State’s terror and hatred has penetrated even our borders," he said.

    Syria has been mired in civil war since 2011, with government forces fighting numerous opposition factions and radical Islamists. Russia conducted an aerial campaign against terrorists in Syria between September and mid-March. Late on Monday, Putin ordered the Russian Defense Ministry to begin withdrawing Russian warplanes and service personnel from Syria.

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    Middle East, role, impact, Syrian ceasefire, armed forces, security, interview, Dmitry Medvedev, Vladimir Putin, Reuven Rivlin, Israel, Syria, Russia
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